10 January 20222 Samuel 1:1-12
'I took the crown that was on [Saul’s] head and the armlet that was on his arm, and I have brought them here to my lord.' (v. 10)
Saul was the first king of Israel and David was his son-in-law. David had been fighting the Amalekites ( a tribe to the south of Palestine) at roughly the same time as Saul was fighting the Philistines, who were settled in the west of Palestine, on the Mediterranean coast. David was successful but Saul and his army were routed. So Mount Gilboa where Saul died (verse 6), which was just west of the River Jordan and not far south of the Sea of Galilee, was an unexpected place for Saul’s defeat.
David returns to Ziklag, a village 15 or so miles east of Gaza at the southern tip of Palestine. His unexpected visitor is an Amalekite who has escaped from the beleaguered rump of Saul’s army. He arrives displaying the signs of mourning (torn clothes and earth on his head) and carrying royal insignia (Saul’s crown and bracelet). He knows that David was at loggerheads with Saul, so his mission is to inform David of Saul’s death (and also to tell him of the death of Jonathan, who was Saul’s son and a close friend of David). The Amalekite wants to curry favour by enabling David to assume the kingship of Israel.
David must test the truth of the young man’s story. The latter declares that Saul had received a heavy blow in the battle, and with the Philistine chariots and cavalry bearing down on him, he asked the Amalekite to kill him. The young man rescued the insignia of Saul's office for David to use in order to succeed to the kingship.
Note: There is an alternative account of Saul’s death in 1 Samuel 31:2-6.
Before anything else can happen, David and his army colleagues must use the rest of the day to mourn the deaths of Saul and Jonathan.
- Public rituals of mourning are much less common in our contemporary Western society than has been the case in almost all societies around the world in earlier generations. Is this a good development? Has anything been lost?
- Perhaps in the company of a close family member or a trusted friend, you might recall the deepest experience of grief you have experienced. Are there still raw features of your loss you must come to terms with? How do prayers and church rituals help? Could they become more healing and comforting to you?